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Artists take the classes

Artists in residence are quite the thing at universities. But they are not so common in primary schools. At Oakfield primary in St Mellons, however, they have become as much a feature of the autumn term as falling leaves.

Last autumn, the school played host to three artists and a designer. The artists in question are students on the postgraduate teacher-training course in art and design at the school of education in Cardiff. Their six-week residency in a Cardiff primary school, during which they work with a group of pupils on a work of art, constitutes their first stint of teaching practice.

The scheme, now in its 17th year, is a project devised by the school of education and run in partnership with the education authority.

Each of the 20 primary schools taking part accepts a team of two or three artists for three or four days a week. They nominate a teacher-mentor with an interest in art and design to help the students and to liaise with visiting tutors from the university.

The schools also provide studios or working spaces where they can work with the children, ranging from a corner of the school foyer to a converted classroom.

Everybody wins - students, pupils and school staff - and the works the children produce, currently on display at the university, are startlingly good.

Oakfield head Dave Pedwell, who has taken part in the scheme from the start, says: "This is an opportunity to develop creative arts, an area of the curriculum that we felt was not given sufficient time."

The walls of his school stand comparison with an art gallery.

The school also contains an impressive collection of steel pans, evidence of how music is another strong strand of the creative arts in Cardiff schools. Some 7,500 pupils in the city and the Vale of Glamorgan learn to sing or play a musical instrument through its peripatetic music service.

At Oakfield, Mr Pedwell reckons nearly half his 330 pupils learn instruments ranging from wind-chimes to the violin.

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